An Update On The Homebuilt 552ci Small-Block Ford V12

You may remember when we first covered the progress of Georgia-based professional engine builder and hobbyist Jan Baker’s custom homebuilt Ford V12 back in April of 2015. We learned that over a period of four years Jan modified and welded two Ford Windsor 302 blocks together – with the front two cylinders cut off of one and the rear two cut off of the other – and cut up three modified four-barrel Cleveland cylinder heads to form two with some custom made internals in the bottom end. The result was a period correct 552ci Ford small-block V12 with a 10.5:1 compression ratio. At that time, the Ford V12 made 697 horsepower and 576 lb-ft of torque on premium pump gas, but that was only the beginning for Jan.

Jan and his grandson, Tim Baker, recently reached out to us with some exciting new updates on this one of a kind V12. But first Jan and Tim wanted to clear up a few misunderstandings and provide some additional background on the build.

The mastermind behind the build, Jan Baker (left), and his grandson, Tim Baker (right), who has been actively involved in helping with the build as well.

Setting The Facts Straight

“After the first video and articles were released, we noticed that some of the viewers misunderstood the specifics of the build,” says Tim Baker. “We did use two Windsor 302 Mexican truck blocks, and they operate as if we had used two straight-six blocks side-by-side. Each bank has its own ignition system and the same firing order as any 300, 292, 250 or 240 straight-six, just 90 degrees apart. It’s a true odd-fire engine [1-7-5-11-3-9-6-12-2-8-4-10].”

“We also noticed quite a few people were asking why we chose to use 302 Windsor blocks, and there are a few reasons,” states Jan Baker. “Number one, 302s were what I had available to me. Second, the eventual goal is to put this engine in a GT40 Mk IV replica kit car and the shorter deck height allows the pan to more easily clear the axle that runs directly underneath it. And finally, I had never tried to join two blocks together before and had no idea how well they would line up – if a journal didn’t line up I could always move up to a small-block Chevrolet journal or even a Cleveland main journal. But as luck would have it, everything lined up well and that wasn’t necessary.”

The dual straight-six distributor setup (left) and custom made four-barrel Cleveland cylinder heads (right).

Where The Inspiration Came From

“When Ford went to Le Mans in the mid to late ’60s, they attacked the course using a 427 FE big-block [“medium-block”] in the GT40 Mk IV and later a revised 302 Windsor small-block in the Mk I, that gave the more exotic Ferrari and Matra V12s and Porsche flat-12s a run for their money,” explains Jan. “I always wondered why Ford never developed a 12-cylinder platform to compete on the world stage – not that everything they built should have been 12-cylinders – but they certainly had the ability and resources.”

“They [Ford] did make a handful of modular-based V12s to go in their GT90 concept from the mid-1990s, but they never did anything with it,” Tim interjected. “It was just a concept car they drove around a test track a few times at 60 miles per hour and that was it.”

A billet 120-degree, 3.50-inch stroke crankshaft machined by Henry Velasco. This crank supports a set of 5.565-inch long Howard’s connecting rods that utilize small-block Chevy bearings and Toyota wrist pins to hold the 12 custom 4.090-inch Arias pistons.

“Exactly, the work I have done here on my own is an example of what Ford could have produced at the time, using the same 40 to 50 year old technology. It’s bigger than what they would have ran in Le Mans, but it cost me the same to have a custom 550-incher crank made as it would have for a 400-inch!” Jan chuckles.

New Parts And New Dyno Numbers!

Jan and Tim recently had the custom V12 back on the dyno to test out some new parts and were more than happy with the results. “The engine is fresh off the dyno after returning with a new camshaft profile and improved intake manifold design, and we were satisfied with the new numbers to say the least,” explains Jan.

“We just tore it down to inspect for any damaged parts or unusual wear and everything looks mighty good – cylinder heads look great, pistons look healthy, the cylinder walls are in great shape, the bearings still look brand new, and the intake manifold showed great improvements. The only problem we found was a minor head gasket issue that can be fixed with a set of custom copper gaskets.”

“This is the third intake manifold that we have designed and built for this project. It’s all steel and entirely handmade, so it’s a pretty heavy prototype piece,” states Jan. “Most of this is still considered ‘proof of concept’ and that was the cheapest way we could do it. Of course we would have preferred to go all aluminum, but that just isn’t feasible for our budget on this project.”

“We did have a few surprises on the dyno this time around, and it even scared us pretty good at one point,” says Tim. “We first tried running the pair of original Ford Racing inline four-barrel carbs again, from their Trans-Am program in the late ’60s. But it was running way too rich and we couldn’t pull enough fuel out at higher engine speeds because we ran out of smaller jet sizes, so we pulled those off and installed three Holley four-barrel carbs. We also wound up having the 12-volt ignition dropping off at one point, which caused quite a bit of overlap and a good backfire – but it didn’t damage anything. In fact, the run immediately after that was our best to date, we all did a double take when we first saw the final numbers!”

The inline four-barrel carburetors had issues running too rich and was causing pretty bad backfires.

“The inline four-barrels still made 604 horsepower and 491 lb-ft of torque and proved to be much more drivable with the engine running at steady highway speeds. With some further refinement, that setup does deserve another try on this engine design, but for now Holley is king,” states Jan.

Using mildly ported custom Cleveland four-barrel heads with quenched chambers, 2.190-inch intake valves, slightly oversized 1.760-inch exhaust valves, a new custom handmade intake manifold and three Holley four-barrel carburetors; this Windsor block Cleveland-headed V12’s peak power increased by an additional 175 horsepower and 97 lb-ft of torque since we last covered this build. That puts this custom 552 ci Ford at 872 horsepower at 7,200 rpm and 669 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm on premium-grade pump gas. It even revs out to 8,000 rpm with a healthy 811 horsepower!

“A build like this takes quite some time and a fair amount of money. Most of the funds for this project were generated here in my home workshop by rebuilding engines, carburetors and other things like that for local folks,” states Jan. “Other than my grandson and I, there are two other people I want acknowledge for being instrumental in the development and success of this build – Mr. Kelly Coffee, who gave me lots of advice throughout the process and even loaned me a carburetor to get the engine up and running; and Mr. Gary Dinger, who gave me a lot of advice on camshaft selection and input on intake manifold design.”

“Now that we’ve seen what this can do using the technology Ford had in the ’60s and ’70s – if we find the right interested parties, an all aluminum block, single piece aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum intake manifold are definitely possible,” says Tim. “With an all aluminum design, a modern electronic fuel injection system and better spark – this V12 would easily be capable of handling well over 1,000 naturally aspirated horsepower. We’re just waiting for the right people to come along or for us to save up enough money to try it ourselves.”

“It’s amazing to me that the stock block has handled the power it has been producing so far,” says Jan. “We’re very pleased with how far we’ve been able to take this engine and I really don’t want to punish it anymore. So I think I’m just going to put it back together now and hopefully stick it in something to drive really soon.”

Final Thoughts

Jan’s one of a kind Ford V12 is the culmination of over 30 years of planning, some helpful family and friends, and an active imagination that never stopped dreaming of what could have been. We hope to follow up with Jan and Tim soon and see this monster frankenstein-esque Windsor/Cleveland build in that GT40 Mk IV kit car that Jan has been dreaming of.

About the author

Kyle Kitchen

Born and raised in Southern California, Kyle has been a gearhead ever since seeing his first Mitsubishi Evo VIII in 2003. He is almost entirely self taught mechanically, and as an inexperienced enthusiast always worked on his own vehicles, regardless of the difficulty, just to learn how to do it himself. Prior to becoming a freelance writer for the company, Kyle started his automotive performance career with Power Automedia as a shop technician, where he gleaned intimate knowledge of LS platforms and drag racing builds; then later joining the editorial team as the Staff Writer for EngineLabs And Turnology. Today, Kyle is an experienced EFI calibrator; hot rod builder; and motorsports technician living in the San Jose area. Kyle is a track junkie with lots of seat time. You can usually find him racing his Mitsubishi Evo X in local time attack and road race events.
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